The face of Islam currently visible to the West bears the features of orthodoxy, fundamentalism, the so-called "new anti-Semitism," and political terrorism. Images of inter-ethnic bloodshed in Iraq, bellicose Iranian posturing, Al-Qaeda training camps, and zealot suicide bombers are the basic grammar of such perception. While not entirely untrue, this portrayal of Islam also emanates from the 'villain hunger' of the West, a hunger that has increased since the fall of the USSR. The false equation of 'Muslim' with 'Arab' has also created stereotypes and ambiguities.
The fact is that most Muslims of the world are not Arab and many Arabs are not Muslims. Indeed the people, culture, traditions, and even religious practices of Islam are highly varied and complex. Its belief systems range from the austere Wahabbi rigidity to lyrical Sufi mysticism. Its cultural fabric includes the dark spots of suppression of women on the one hand and breathtakingly beautiful fibers of calligraphy, architecture, rug weaving, and romantic poetry on the other hand.
Attempting to advance knowledge about Islam and to create the possibility of a dialogue between Islam and psychoanalysis, The Crescent and the Couch brings together a distinguished panel of Muslim and non-Muslim contributors from the fields of history, religion, anthropology, politics, and psychoanalysis. Together these authors highlight the world-changing contributions of prominent Muslim figures, and elucidate the encounter of Islam with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. Moving on to matters of family, individual personality formation, human sexuality, and religious identity, they also address clinical issues that arise in the treatment of Muslim patients as well as the technical work of Muslim psychoanalysts.
The book thus becomes a literary ambassador of sorts, bridging the conceptual gap between psychoanalytic theory on the one hand and Islamic conceptualizations of life on the other. It is a work of synthesis at its best and since bringing diverse things together is a task of life instinct, this book can be seen as a robust celebration of life in today's rapidly evolving world.
"Only Salman Akhtar, who has consistently pushed the conceptual envelope of psychoanalysis, was capable of providing us such a timely and readable volume on Islam. His book will help us develop a more nuanced and ecumenical understanding of the history, culture, and psychology of this great religion. This not only has implications for psychoanalytic thought and clinical practice but also for any framework for positive sociopolitical change." — Homer Curtis, M.D., past president, American psychoanalytic Association; member, editorial board, Psychoanalytic Quarterly
"This much needed book on Islam, one of the world's great religions, shows how in its multifaceted regional and historical expressions, Islamic religious and secular culture conditions and operationalizes desire, longing, sexuality, marriage, killing, honor and leadership. Using literary, historical, theological, and psychological registers, the lives of the major Islamic figures beginning with Prophet Mohammad and including the Sufi poet Rumi and political leaders like Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Osama bin Laden are interpretated. Islam's relations with Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism are meaningfully elucidated and the work of Muslim psychoanalysts, like Masud Khan and Vamik Volkan, is discussed. The new findings and insights offered are historically critical, psychologically astute and conceptually rewarding." — Peter Loewenberg, psychoanalyst and historian; professor of history, UCLA.; chair, IPA China Development Committee
"This book on Islam is a unique achievement by a distinguished group of Muslim and non-Muslim contributors. It brings a psychoanalytic perspective to Muslim institutions, characters and creativity. The editor, Salman Akhtar, takes the reader on a journey that goes from the early history of Islam through the diversity of Muslims and their concerns, to the conflicts and accomplishments of Muslim individuals, groups, and nations. It also highlights the work of Muslims in the psychoanalytic world. I believe that The Crescent and the Couch will profoundly change the way many people think about Islam and Muslims today." — Afaf Mahfouz, Ph.D., chair, International Psychoanalytic Association-United Nations Committee
bout the Author:
Salman Akhtar, M.D. is professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College, training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Psychoanalysts.